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News and Comment April 2024

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30 April (Part 2) - No more Khanage please

I like to collect election leaflets and have two large boxes of the things under a bed but I will not be looking for a third box any time soon, not if this year’s Mayoral election is any guide. I received the local Labour leaflet in which supposedly intelligent Councillors attempt to convince me that Sadiq Khan has my best interests at heart, but no more. Say goodbye to my vote in 2026 chaps if you really believe that. One of my Labour Councillors lives near to me and the disappearance of the old non-compliant motor parked outside in the Summer of last year did not go unnoticed.

KhanBut at least Labour made an effort, no other party attempted to secure my vote. No leaflets at all; some people may be completely unaware of the opportunity to change London for the better.

For two more leaflets I had to prevail upon friends living in other boroughs. The Conservative and Reform UK leaflets were rescued from their recycling bins.

Only Susan Hall (Conservative) has any chance of beating Khan and a vote for Howard Cox is a wasted vote, added to which, in my opinion, he talks rubbish in radio interviews.

I still don’t know anyone other than Labour activists who will vote for a proven failure and after talking to competitors in a pub quiz in a Labour area of London earlier this evening there is reason to think there will be a large anti-Khan turnout on Thursday. But maybe it is significant that all 60 of them are white and as we know, Khan has made it very clear that he does not believe white people represent London.

Is it too much to hope that there will be a repeat of June 2016 when everyone assumed we would stay in the EU?

 

30 April (Part 1) - Ye Olde Memory Battle

A reader enquiry at the weekend asked if there had been planning approval for a Care Home on the site of Ye Olde Leather Bottle on Heron Hill in Belvedere. I must confess that I thought it had been refused in 2020 and it had, but the ancient brain cells had forgotten that the developer tried again and was granted permission in October 2021.

Since then there have been arguments about the conditions imposed. Sooner or later the developer will get his way. He always does.

The correspondent confirms that the site is still a mess with a Public Right of Way blocked,

 

29 April - Twelve years of progress

Is there anything to add to the LGBT+ Motion report? Let’s see.

Labour Leader Stefano Borella spoke for ten minutes and five seconds in support of his LBGT+ Motion beginning with the attitude of his Italian Catholic father and ending with a heartfelt plea that he would be supported by the Conservative Group.

Along the way he revealed that he was born in 1974 and attended two different Catholic schools in Welling and encountered some less than progressive priests during his formative years. The gay role models of the day, Larry Grayson, John Inman, Kenneth Williams and Frankie Howard were totally unlike him who is a football cricket and golf enthusiast and far from being camp. He had no role model.

The country gradually became more tolerant and his father too eventually providing Stefano with family support that others might not have received. But his earlier years were not so amenable. Hence his enthusiasm for ensuring that everyone is given all the support needed at every stage of their lives.

Councillor Nicola Taylor who organised a Gay Pride event in Erith last year seconded the Motion. She was unhappy with half of LGBT children being bullied (Just Like Us Charity survey) and few schools providing any reporting procedures. Depression, mental health and suicide are too often the consequence. She asked that the Motion be passed unamended to send a clear message to schools and the LGBT community.

Conservative Patrick Adams put forward an amendment which was “one of constructive refinement” and an update to the five year old Labour proposal. To the surprise of many It was seconded by a “delighted” Labour Councillor Chris Ball (Erith). He referred to a similar Motion before the Council in 2012 and noted how many of the older Councillors have gone or maybe their attitudes have changed.

Councillor Chris Taylor (Conservative) backed the Motion which was a rather different stance from 2012 when he (with my own approval) said such matters were nothing much to do with Bexley Council.

Felix di NetimahThe Motion was opposed only by Councillor Felix di Netimah (Independent, Crayford). He said that the Motion divides people who take a more traditional view and those from Christian and other religious backgrounds might feel excluded. “A Council should not be choosing political and cultural positions which are divisive and this is very divisive.”

As a cricket enthusiast he objected to batsmen being referred to as batters and similarly “parents who do not want their children exposed to a particular ideology should not be regarded as the problem”.

He said he would be voting against the Motion. He did and then left the Chamber.

Note. Having been readmitted (with monetary compensation!) to Surrey Cricket Club after being kicked out last year because of their administrative cock-up I too have difficulty with batter; old habits die hard. But logically it is correct. We have bowler, spinner, wicket keeper and fielder so why not batter?

 

28 April - 53 Questions. Few Answers

Ahmet DourmoushWith the anti-Shvorob question out of the way Councillors got the full 30 minutes to ask questions. Four of the first five were Children’s Services related from which we learned not a lot.

The question from Labour’s Zainab Asunramu was batted away by Cabinet Member Read because the answer was easily available on the Council’s website. In a follow up exchange with Conservative Lisa Moore he said there were just a few signs that the Covid related jump in demand for Children’s Services might be abating, “but very early days”.

Councillor Asunramu tried her luck with Cabinet Member Caroline Newton (Education). The response was not unlike Councillor Read’s, but more diplomatic obviously. A plan had been published (PDF) and debated at both the recent Cabinet meeting and the Scrutiny meeting.

A similar question from Conservative Ward-Wilson prompted Councillor Newton to rerun the comment that the CQC/OFSTED report was “disappointing with widespread systematic failings leading to concerns” and another reference to the recently approved plan.

Councillor Asunramu’s question about reimbursing parents who had been left out of pocket by Bexley’s SEND failures was well received by Cabinet Member Newton (“there was an inequity”) but there was no straight-forward answer.

Councillor O’Hare asked how much money was Sadiq Khan taking from Bexley residents through the Mayoral precept. Deputy Leader Leaf relished being able to relate that Band D has gone from £276 in 2016, after eight years of reductions by the previous Mayor, to £471·40. Total takings have gone from £21·7 million to £39·6 million, plus Business Rates and the ULEZ tax.

In return TfL investment in Bexley has gone down by more than 80% and the Government has had to bypass the Mayor with a rescue package for potholes. It will be Pay Per Mile next and Khan refused to accept extra funding for the police leaving us 1,000 officers short. “Sack Sadiq!”, a comment which prompted the Mayor to utter the word “purdah”.

Labour Leader Borella responded with “Bus Hopper fares, free meals for Primary school pupils, SL3, funding for a Violence Reduction Unit and more affordable housing in Bexley”.

Fact Checker Leaf said the VRU was funded by Central Government and Khan refused to take the extra crime fighting money offered by the Government. “The borough needs a Mayor who will invest in the police and the city as a whole.”

Councillor Chris Ball (Labour, Erith) asked how many libraries would be left by the end of this Conservative administration. Answer “All twelve and there are no current plans to change that”. Councillor Ball was concerned that community run libraries resulted in a loss of professional librarian jobs.

Cabinet Member Sue Gower said that Library use in Bexley is as high now as it was pre-Covid.

Time was up. No more questions.

 

27 April - And They All Lived Happily Ever After

A strange thing happened at last week’s Full Council meeting and it wasn’t just Matthew Chapman ducking out of the Shvorob question; I wasn’ְt bored rigid by the half hour of Motions.

Stefano BorellaLabour Leader Stefano Borella said how pleased he was that his “This Council notes that LGBT+ inclusive relationships and sex education is crucial to the development of young LGBT+ people” etc. had got to the top of the Motions list after a wait of five years. The Agenda showed that the list is currently ten Motions long.

At this point I shall declare an interest. During my time at school (boys only from ten years onwards) there were no pupils who showed any sign of being in any way different, nor do I recall any persistent bullying. There was just one teacher who was a bit too touchy feely.

I have had neighbours from the G community one of whom commuted to London with me and I occasionally meet up with someone who is very definitely T and we get on just fine. At work LG&B were everywhere and I would like to think that is because we provided a safe environment for them, but currently I know none and haven’t for several years. I am far from being an authority on the subject but concede that schools may be a big problem.

My two children are a year or two older than Stef and what they used to say to ‘friends’ got them a good telling off and like everything else, that sort of thing will have got far worse by now.

Stefano gave a moving account of how he had suffered in his younger days and he was backed up by Councillor Nicola Taylor. They asked that everyone backed their Motion. (It is a rule in Bexley Council that Labour Motions are either flung out or amended and taken over so that they become Conservative Motions.)

A Groan filled the air as Patrick Adams (Conservative, Blendon & Penhill) stood to propose an Amendment but here an even stranger thing happened. Stefano’s Motion was five years old which gave Patrick the opportunity to update it and polish it.

When he had finished Proposing the Amendment, Councillor Chris Ball (Labour, Erith) jumped to his feet and pulled his Master Stroke. He Seconded it.

LGBT Councillors in Bexley are more than 10% of the total and I think they all spoke for the Motion. When it came to the vote only the Independent for Crayford was against and then promptly left the Chamber.

Mayor Ahmet Dourmoush chairing the meeting was genuinely delighted that the Motion had been carried unanimously (Independent excepted) and looked forward to seeing the rainbow flag flying more often. Bearing in mind that his Muslim Cleric was sitting by his side it was a joyous night for all sorts of prejudices and misconceptions to go flying out of the window.

Hostilities will resume on doorsteps all across the borough this morning.

Note: The foregoing is from memory and may be revised when the recording is analysed, at present spare time is hard to come by.

 

26 April - Friday Fillers

Three topics were discussed at Wednesday’s Full Council meeting, Councillors’ questions, Motions and the Leaderְ’s report. In due course summaries will appear here but not just yet. Reporting on a Council meeting takes three to four times the length of the meeting and right now there is simply not enough spare time.

It is a month before the next meeting of any note so unlike Scrutiny meetings which are like buses, turning up three times in a week, there is no great rush to get anything on line.

Meanwhile the usual fillers from the trivial end of the spectrum.

Parking
The photos below were all taken yesterday within five minutes walk of home. The reason for the first ticket is obvious. A wheel on the pavement is always an offence. It doesn’t show clearly on the second Photo but the front of the car is overhanging the flat portion of someone’s drive by about a foot. I suspect the affected resident reported it because I know they are pretty fed up with Elizabeth line commuters.

The others are impossible to be sure about. It could be that someone has not paid the outrageous £15·80 minimum charge or it could be a resident with an expired CPZ permit but it is much more likely that it is something else.

On both sides of the road only a small section of each 150 yards long parking bay is open for paying visitors. The dividing line has faded almost to nothingness and in any case residents are allowed to park over it rendering it invisible. The restriction sign offers no help at all.

The lack of clarity has been known to Bexley Council for many years and the current Cabinet Member but they would prefer to cheat motorists whenever possible.

PCN issued PCN issued PCN issued PCN issued PCN issued


Brown faced friends
A friendly Councillor told me the other day that he secretly feeds the foxes in his garden. Or was it a she? I forget. I am not sure that is a good idea.

A year ago a very sick looking mangy young fox would use my front drive as a sleeping pad and I took pity on her. At first it was the occasional sausage, bacon that was past its sell by date and maybe a bit of corned beef.

She became a regular visitor and a very healthy looking specimen. A veterinary surgeon friend told me that the cheapest way to feed her was to bulk buy dog biscuits but the fox turned her pretty nose up at the idea.

Occasionally she disappeared for two or three weeks at a time but recently she (there was a distinctive feature in her fur so easy to identify) has taken up almost permanent residence and will trot alongside me if take a trip to the communal bins. Now she brings friends. The original one is happy to come right up to me, then there is a second which is timid and thinks 15 feet is quite close enough. A third turns around and runs if she sees me. Then stops, turns around again and reconsiders its position.

There is a fourth one but I have only seen it once.

Finding things to keep them happy is beginning to get rather expensive. My advice would be, don’t do it!

The fourth picture is of the family dog who was often mistaken for a tame fox. Judy died in 1969 aged 14.

PCN issued PCN issued PCN issued PCN issued


X marks the spot
I have always felt a little sanctimonious about not blocking anyone on Twitter (†), not even those hateful Lefties who report me to the police and threaten to sue if I so much as mention her name. What is the point of depriving such people of a source of education?

However recently I have seen far to much abusive stuff on X and last Saturday began to use the Mute facility so that they no longer waste my time with idiotic insults. Political comment is welcome but threats of violence are not. By the end of the weekend 121 mainly anonymous accounts were muted and I suspect the number is around 200 now but only one Bexley based as far as I know. In reality another reaches the criterion.

I am not an enthusiast for calling election candidates about whom we as yet know very little, sleazebags, racists, poopers (on the grave of a dead MP) and associating them with Kim Jong Un until they have proved themselves worthy of those epithets. So far I have avoided the Mute button but Councillor Dourmoush has grasped that nettle with both hands.

Blocked Freya and Mayor May I pass on a message to the Mayor of Bexley please? If you or any of your successors ever fail to immediately dump any Award suggestion bearing my name into the nearest Council shredder you will never hear the last of it.

Someone seems to think it is funny most years but it is not.

In any case, us Knights have had our fair share of Civic Recognition Awards already. The photograph is of my 13 year old Granddaughter getting hers from the Mayor of Malmesbury last night. (Junior Citizen of the Year.)

The bugger could not be bothered to wear his chain!


† Over enthusiastic commercial advertisers excepted.

 

25 April - No show

There was only one reason to forsake the Full Council meeting webcast last night and that was to get to the Council Chamber early and make a judgment on whether or not Matthew Chapman is a Council lackey. Google says he may be a builder from Bexley, an actor, a journalist or a murderer from Chippenham. No, that can’ְt be him, that one is banged up for 18 years. Would the mysterious Mr. Chapman be hobnobbing with friendly Councillors before the meeting? I arrived in Bexleyheath before 7 to find out.

My old favourite parking spot was full, so was the second and third. I found a bay in a cul-de-sac but I could make neither head nor tail of the restriction sign. Not wanting to start a fight with the parking Gestapo I moved on and went around the circle again and eventually found a free bay near Townley Road. Not wide enough for a medium size car (I have an old letter from Bexley Council threatening to see me in Court if I ever overlapped a white line) but the restriction period had passed so hurried back to the Council chamber muttering mild expletives as I went, arriving three minutes before the meeting start time. A friendly greeting from Councillors Hall and Slaughter but apart from that nothing except the back of Conservative heads. (†)
Parking bay

To a large degree it was a waste of time and effort. Mr. Chapman failed to show up. The Mayor said he had given notice of his absence which suggests that he might know his way around the local Tory party. One of the rules on public questions is No Show means no question and Mayor Dourmoush followed the rules. When it suited the Tory agenda, his predecessors would ignore it. The price tag put on Mr. Shvorob’s head remains a mystery.

I nevertheless sat through the entire meeting and news of it will trickle out here over coming days. There is a big gap to fill before the next meeting of any consequence; a whole month!

It was a pretty good meeting over all and I said as much to Mayor Dourmoush on the way out. There was no one there to overhear us so with luck, compliments from me won’t do him any harm. Ahmet is probably the best Chairman Mayor in my 15 years of watching. None of the constant arguments and public insults of the Clark and Downing years.


† Cabinet Member Sue Gower acknowledged my presence electronically.
There was only one other member of the public present. He said it was his first visit. As he left he said it would be his last. Given the parking situation, it might be mine too. Is it due to the imposition of Car Club only bays, no parking facilities for East Side Quarter residents (blame Khan) or introducing night time charges in car parks?

 

24 April - No easy answers

I have no idea what the answer might be to the question posed three days ago and reporting on the activities of Sidcup’s Agent Provocateur is often a tightrope job. He and I are similar in some ways, both ready to attack the political parties in equal measure but I think I am more ready to accept that most of Bexley Councillors are decent well meaning people doing their best, as perhaps we all are, to avoid falling into the black hole which is the Government’s failed fiscal policies.

As must be obvious to every reader by now my political inclinations are to the right of centre and when I look at the sort of people labelled far right in today’s Daily Telegraph, to quote just one example, maybe I am that too. Certainly some way to the right of a man with his roots in Belarus.

Holding a different point of view is not a good reason for silencing anyone, hence the pro-ULEZ thesis on BiB when my own views on Sadiq Khan might best be left unsaid. However there is a shared agreement that the dishonesty and deception which infests public life and from which Bexley is not immune should not go unchallenged. (I am currently going through a phase when I blame Bexley’s senior officers more than elected Members but that may change next week.)

BiB owes its very existence to Council officer dishonesty and deception. Long term readers may safely skip the next paragraph; you have read it a dozen times before.

In 2009, Bexley’s Team Leader (Traffic and Road Safety Group) told me that his road designs conformed to the guidance contained within two very expensive Transport Research Laboratory reports. I alluded to it at the time but 15 years later it is probably safe to be much more forthcoming. My son headed up the TRL department that issued those reports and he sent me free copies. He also Co-chaired the European Union’s committee on the same subject. This week he is back in Europe advising vehicle manufacturers about how safety can be further improved. I think it is safe to say that I have it on the very best authority that Bexley Council lied to me about road design but the Team Leader was subsequently promoted into the very top job. In Bexley the ability to lie convincingly is a necessary skill.

After a number of similar stories appeared on BiB two things happened more or less simultaneously. Councillor Craske posted a scurrilous blog about me and a number of other Council critics. A blog for which he was arrested more than a year later; and Teresa O’Neill asked the police to arrest me for being critical of Councillors.
Police report

Police document dated 24th October 2011, signed by Detective Constable Neil Thomas.

The police report goes on to say that they considered arrest but settled on harassment warnings (†) and keeping the names of the police involved secret. The officer who signed my warning letter was never traced and probably didn’t exist.

Council Leader Baroness Teresa O’Neill’s stupid attempt to stifle all criticism is directly responsible for 15 years of unrelenting and mainly critical reports about her sometimes dishonest Council. It showed an arrogance which is all too common among the political classes. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely etc.

How different things might have been if she had reached out, as modern parlance would have it, and asked “What’s all this about Malcolm?” and we finished up agreeing that lying to residents is not acceptable. Too idealistic probably, how can an edifice built on lies promise not to do it again? At least not in 2010 only months after Bexley Council did its best to protect the previous Leader who went on to serve a suspended prison sentence.

In 2010 there was only one Councillor who reached out to BiB - he was soon sacked - but things have changed for the very much better since then. This blog was prompted by two Conservative Councillors who this week have been willing to discuss current issues. None of us have answers to the dilemma 115 FOIs in 18 months poses.

Responding to the rejection of two Full Council questions with an FOI asking how many such questions have been rejected in the past may not be the best way to combat Bexley Council’s poor Leadership

The response to Matthew Chapman’s question tonight should be interesting as will the ICO response due within the next couple of weeks.


† The police subsequently apologised for issuing the warning.

 

23 April - Potholes first

Lansdown RoadA two line email from @tonyofsidcup asked if I thought he should report the dirty street name sign on Lansdown Road to which the obvious response was “only if you have the support of Councillor Andy Dourmoush”. He is the acknowledged expert on whether a sign meets legibility standards or not. And if Lansdown is cleaned or replaced I want mine done too. (Fossington Road.)

The second line merely stated that he had emailed every single Labour Councillor about his Full Council questions being rejected. Well good luck with that. I emailed one, copied to another, a month ago with an enquiry much simpler that @tony’s. Not a Dickie Bird.

Langdon Shaw Fossington Road

 

22 April - Into the abyss

Pot hole Pot hole Cracked roadTwo weekend reports said that Bexley’s biggest pothole is at the junction of Blackfen Road and Westwood Lane. Apparently New Road has nothing on that one but without a photograph I can only assume that both BiB readers are right.

I am not finding two dimensional photography to be very good at illustrating the depth of a hole but this is the best one I can find within five minutes walk of home. Not perhaps for size alone but because of its strategic position; around 30 buses an hour and on a pedestrian crossing.

As the well weathered look suggests it has been there threatening to trip up pedestrians for a couple of months, maybe more.

It wasn’t safe to stick a tape measure down the hole but it may have breached the 40mm rule at the deepest spot but what is the mentality of a Council that prefers to wait for big problems to come along rather than take the stitch in time approach? Ah, it’s Bexley. Enough said.

On the other side of the crossing the road is severely cracked. Go a few more yards and there is a hole that has celebrated its first birthday, but it is in Greenwich!

 

21 April - How do you solve a problem like Dimitri?

Bexley Council has renewed its vendetta against Mr. Dimitri Shrovob. An opinionated piece about it might lose the few Council friends I may have; so what follows is strictly factual with comments restricted.

Mr. S. is one of the very few people remaining who tries to hold Bexley Council to account and without someone to watch over them they might wholly revert to their old ways. Dishonest, Vindictive and occasionally Criminal.

For his pains Mr. S. has been  declared vexatious and banned from submitting Freedom of Information requests. The law is that a question may be deemed vexatious but not an individual. A complaint is currently with the Information Commissioner but like all quangos they cannot be relied upon to act impartially. When Bexley Council refused to answer a question from Michael Barnbrook about whether or not a Council employee had the qualifications demanded by his contract of employment, Bexley Council told the ICO that Michael was a well known racist. The employee was black. This despite Michael spending a lot of money on a young black boy who might otherwise have drifted towards Council care and having chosen to accept the position of police mentor to Stephen Lawrence. (I have wondered why a black teenager needed a police mentor but that is different can of worms.)

Last November Council Leader Teresa O’Neill devoted several minutes of a Full Council meeting to an attack on Mr. Shrovob for trying to get a straight answer to his question about the Petition Scheme. He was acutely aware that the only other petition held in recent years was kicked into the long grass with a last minute rule change and a big lie thrown in for good measure. He was concerned that if he ran another petition it would suffer the same fate. The Leader said that Mr. S’s questions were costing the Council too much money and exaggerated the quoted numbers to ‘prove’ her point. A follow up letter said that answering FOIs causes staff unnecessary stress.

Subsequently all of Mr. Shvorob’s FOIs were rejected immediately after submission. The initial excuse note said that he had made a total of 115 FOI requests in 18 months. More than 100 had been answered without complaint but the final dozen brought down the shutters.

Having illegally banned Mr. S. from submitting FOIs, Bexley Council has taken what might be considered the logical next step. They have rejected his questions to Full Council. Mr. S. thinks this is unprecedented but it is not. Dimitri should count himself lucky not to have been banned from being on Council premises because that is a weapon in their armoury too.

If I may interject a comment into this hopefully factual report it is that Mr. Shvorob does not know when he is beaten by a dishonest system. To my mind there comes a point when you have to accept that Bexley Council is crooked to its very core and move on to finding the next set of facts to prove that very thing. The trivial should not be pursued to the ends of the earth.

The questions submitted to Full Council were…


Can you please explain the mysterious demise of the council’s ULEZ Task and Finish Group, which was supposed to come up with ways to soften the ULEZ expansion’s impact on Bexley residents?


and


Do you have any information about why in 2021, a two-year-old, and soon-liquidated single-employee company owned by a Lucy Beckwith was selected to bid for a £40,000 unadvertised catering contract for Bexley’s Volunteer Event?


I would not have asked either of those questions. In the case of the former I phoned the Chairman of the ULEZ Task and Finish Group and he was more than happy to tell me what happened. As I have said before, the Council Leader took over the job of fighting against Khan’s air tax and the Group was effectively side-lined and overtaken by events and I do not imply any criticism of what the Baroness decided to do.

The Lucy Beckwith question is ancient history but rooted in a suspicion that there is a family connection with former (Brian and Aileen, deceased) Councillors of the same name. I was assured at the time that there was not and more recently that a Lucy was not in evidence at Brian’s funeral. Maybe I am too forgiving but I’m not sure it matters very much if Lucy Beckwith was dragged in at the last minute to help out when Bexley Council was in danger of falling into a hole of its own making.

Apart perhaps from an element of sarcasm which found its way into the final question rejection email I don’t see it as being out of order. A question that has been accepted for next week’s meeting, however, may be.
Question
You may perhaps deduce that Mr. S’s questions were veering towards the petty but anything he can do Bexley Council can do better. They have found a loyal supporter to attempt to blacken Dimitri’s name by broadcasting his alleged sins via the medium of the webcast and subsequently their website.

Mr. Chapman’s name is not among the nearly two thousand Bexley residents who have contacted BiB over the years nor is he an X follower so how did he get to know of Mr. Shvorob’s activities? It will be hat eating time if this is not a contrived inside job to malign a Council critic. It stinks of Teresa O’Neill’s leadership.

Nevermind, it is probably better than reporting critics to the police or making false allegations which result in criminal charges and a Councillor committing perjury in both a Magistrate’s and a Crown Court. I remain hopeful that such depths of Council depravity are truly consigned to history.

Probably I have not entirely succeeded in my attempt to fall out with no one to which I can only say “tough, I am not going to write it out again”.

 

20 April - Bexley says StuffYourStreet

FixMyStreetBack in February it was noted that the major bus route which is New Road SE2 was breaking up under the pressure of far too many bus wheels. (See eighth photo.) Today I went to take another look (Photos 1 and 2 below) and sure enough the cracks have developed into a hole.

Further up the hill there are bigger ones. (Photos 4 and 5 with my foot for scale.)

Neglect is widespread. The CPZ sign is barely readable and about half the drains are blocked, not always at the top grid level level but often just below. (Expand the image to peer through the gaps.)

In March I was at a Council meeting where the Head of Highways defined potholes as large if they were more than 40 millimetres deep and small if they were at least 31 millimetres deep. Probably, like his counterparts in the parking department they do not possess any sort of ruler because FixMyStreet says he looked at these holes ten days ago and defined them as imaginary.

Give it another month and even he should be able to find them.

My phone app says it took me 13 minutes to cut across Lesnes Abbey park and get to the top of New Road and a little less to walk down again. Maybe 25 minutes in the road itself.

During that time I was passed by 19 buses and a twentieth very soon after I was back on Abbey Road.

Three were SL3s, two travelling up the hill just a couple of minutes apart.

Sadiq Khan is wrecking our roads. Sadiq Khan is filling residents’ lungs with diesel fumes. Bexley Council is not keen to spend the £275,000 the Government gave them to fix the potholes.

"
New Road CPZ New Road potholes New Road pothole New Road pothole New Road pothole New Road pothole
Blocked drain Blocked drain Blocked drain Blocked drain Blocked drain Blocked drain

Click image for a better view.

 

19 April (Part 3) - The all electric home

Old sub-station Old sub-station While photographing the Abbey Road drain hole yesterday I was watched by a lady who had ridden along the pavement on her bike and stopped outside the old electricity sub-station. As I turned around I saw her back wheel disappearing through the open door.

Then the inner door opened and she went inside.

The fence has become a makeshift washing line.

I have no idea if the substation is still in use. Probably not, but it looks like a cosy home for one.

 

19 April (Part 2) - Buy a boat

Blocked drain Blocked drain Belvedere floodThe first of these blocked gullies (both photographed yesterday) is in Abbey Road, not far from its junction with New Road, SE2. It was featured here two months ago and causes a flood every time it rains.

The second is in nearby Florence Road, a significant part of BIB’s history. Its redesign was described by Councillor John Davey as “Bonkers” and he was right. It causes traffic chaos every evening when Elizabeth line commuters return home. I drew the attention of the Cabinet Member for Places to the artificially created congestion and suggested a solution but to no avail of course.

The second drain was featured here five weeks ago and causes yet another flood. Bexley Council is simply not very interested in maintaining its infrastructure.

An FOI response (to a Yarnton Way question) from Head of Highways Andrew Bashford, who can be credited with the idea to create Bexley is Bonkers, said that gullies are cleared at least twice a year. Maybe we will have to be a little more patient and learn to endure floods for a while yet.
Road hazard
The boat was photographed in Belvedere seventy years ago. Be prepared!

 

19 April (Part 1) - Promises, promises

Candidate manifestos Probably most of you will have received the London Elects booklet by now. It tells you how to vote and contains the Manifestos of the eleven Mayoral candidates. There is a remarkable similarity between all of them. Eradicate knife crime; Stop ULEZ and similar attacks on private transportation; Tackle homelessness and put local people first. But there is one exception, Labour candidate Sadiq Khan makes no promises, presumably because he knows he has failed on all of those things over the past eight years.

He claims to have frozen TfL fares for five years which is true of only a few of them. He claims to be funding free school meals from his 71% increase in the Council Tax precept but he only pays for a small minority of them as any Council website will confirm.

He claims the Elizabeth line as his achievement but it was due to open six years ago and Khan had very little input to it. Khan has been a disaster for London and he admits that the risk of meeting a violent end is “part and parcel” of living in a big city. His alone among the eleven Manifestos makes no promises for the future. So it is more of the same and London will continue in its downward spiral and policed by a politically motivated force. (Khan is London’s Police & Crime Commissioner.)

The first past the post electoral system gives only one choice if you want to see a change in direction and that is to vote for the Conservative candidate. It is not worth a protest vote with the Greens (take a look at their Brighton stronghold) or Reform UK whose candidate list includes people I know to be dishonest in the extreme. Howard Cox is close to being a one trick pony (motoring) but when I have several times heard him on the radio he can talk total balderdash about electric vehicles. They are neither all good nor all bad as Mr. Cox would have you believe.

Susan Hall was frequently impressive as a GLA Member but perhaps not the most exciting of Mayoral candidates - though no worse than the alternatives - but she is the only hope for averting the disaster that is another four years of Khan.

Personally I am not sure where Khan gets his support from, I have yet to come across anyone - and that’s a fifty plus figure - who has a good word to say about Khan, not even those of a Leftie persuasion.

 

18 April (Part 3) - When in a hole, buy a bigger spade

Bexley Council will do whatever is necessary and go to extraordinary lengths to avoid scrutiny. They definitely don’t like direct questions and asking too many will result in retribution.

I was threatened with the vexatious tag when asking just once why a bus lane was installed which was not compliant with the legal requirements. In 2011 a pressure group known as NoToMob was labelled vexatious for exposing the fact that Bexley Council was operating mobile CCTV without obtaining the necessary DfT certification.

Michael Barnbrook was labelled vexatious for asking why the Monitoring Officer was neither a solicitor nor a barrister as required by his contract of employment. When Michael complained to the Information Commissioner the Council gained their support by implying that Mick was a racist. The Monitoring Officer was a black man.

Bexley Council used to be thoroughly dishonest and occasionally they try to convince us that it still is. The same old question dodging stunts are being pulled again and this time their victim is @tonyofsidcup. (You can find his real name easily enough but he asked that I avoid using it whenever possible.)

Currently he has a complaint with the Information Commissioner because all his FOI requests are turned away and the little I have seen of their interim response suggests the ICO is not unsympathetic. Bexley Council will be working overtime to find a way to mislead the Commissioner.

Meanwhile the incompetents and overpaid ne’re do wells in Bexley have dusted off another of their old tricks. Refusing to allow a resident to ask a public question at Full Council.

The answer to @tony’s question about ULEZ is arguably already known or at least easily guessed. The work of the ULEZ Task and Finish Group was in my opinion overtaken by events but that was never formally announced. Indeed Bexley Council denied it ever existed - but it did. @tony was looking for an official response. Why Bexley Council cannot just answer him in a single sentence I do not know, but they have always preferred confrontation. Given the calibre of their management both elected and otherwise one should perhaps not be surprised.

The other question was about a caterIng contract awarded in 2021 which bypassed the tendering process. Bexley Council did not want to admit what went on at the time and certainly doesn’t want to find an answer now. My guess is that it was a monumental cock-up but @tony harbours the suspicion that nepotism was involved. 2024 is well past the date of the alleged skullduggery but the rules on public questions do not prohibit digging up the past.

By refusing the question Bexley Council effectively confirms that they may be either incompetent or crooked but they are gambling that a scandal free webcast and website is preferable to the truth.

 

18 April (Part 2) - Non-PC AT & Tea

Exchange canteen RhonaFollowing the admission that I told the Head of Personnel (HR) at the long defunct British Telecom International (BTI) to F off when he tried to stop me using a computer, a reader contacted me about what would happen now.

I would be dismissed by the Audit Department. He went on to tell me how his own attempt to transfer sensitive documents from an overseas company to its branch in the UK has taken nearly six months so far because of the delays involved getting various permissions etc.

In 1982 I simply lashed up my desktop computer to a modem and transferred billing information to and from AT&T. (American Telephone & Telegraph Company.) I found an enthusiastic amateur within the workforce to help me with the technicalities but I asked no one, just called my counterpart in New York and did it.

This must be why everything is so expensive these days. Too much red tape and jobs for the boys.

The photographs are from the works canteen where I went for lunch and tea most days. A typical 1960s built telephone exchange with no creature comforts. The lady is Rhona from Guyana. I remember very little about her except that she was at the time not well disposed towards men.

Note: In 1995 on my first trip to Paris on Eurostar three American tourists across the aisle were discussing the tunnel construction and I interjected with a few additions to their knowledge. The ensuing conversation revealed that the lady of the group was my opposite number at AT&T when I was with BTI a few years earlier.

 

18 April (Part 1) - Lightning strikes twice

Earlier this year Bexley Council spent our money on a customer survey to see what we thought of them. 664 responses were analysed and it was found, among other things, that Bexley Council did not always treat its residents as human. If Bexley Council is seriously interested in the Customer Experience, maybe it would be cheaper to simply have a chat with the man from New Road.

Road hazard Road hazardThe food waste bin he ordered in November eventually showed up on 4th April and his attempt to save a cyclist from flying over his handlebars was met with total disinterest.

Under the impression that New Road is a public highway within the jurisdiction of Bexley Council he used their recommended contact methodology, FixMyStreet, to tip them off about the hazard.

The response was brief. “Your report identifies land that is not maintained by the London Borough of Bexley.” That’ְs it. No help whatsoever and they wonder why residents think they are a bit rubbish.

Councillors are constantly telling us how wonderful their staff is. I could have included several examples in yesterday’s Cabinet report but it might get to be too repetitive and I am not sure it is always sincere. Even their managers who allegedly bully staff are the very best there is.

On 12th February Deputy Leader David Leaf said that misdirected FixMyStreet reports are passed on to the appropriate utilities and that may very well be his intention but the practice seems to be very different.

Councillor David Leaf: Misplaced FixMyStreet reports are redirected.

To everyone’s surprise Thames Water came along and fixed their ironmongery a week after New Road Man had a word with them. How long will the repair last under the wheels of 40 buses an hour?

 

17 April - Three failures

The Cabinet met last night to hear for themselves reports of the three mini-disasters that have already been discussed at Scrutiny meetings. The poor results of the Customer Survey, the abysmal management performance revealed by the Staff Survey and the SEND failures.

David LeafThe meeting was Chaired by Deputy Leader David Leaf so it was something of a relief when it lasted only an hour and forty minutes.

The Deputy Director and the Head of Service did their best to put a gloss on their failure to be decent managers to the extent that staff are scared of them and mental health issues have become a serious problem. You will be pleased to know that the people who helped cause the problem have plans to remedy it. It will involve recruiting even more HR staff. We heard the usual platitudes about staff being the Council’s greatest investment and asset from Cabinet Members Munur and Diment. It was said that the current level of 23% temporary staff was a good position to be in. “A committed workforce” was vital in a service focused organisation. Nice to know that has been recognised.

The Agenda revealed something that was not obvious before, that only a miserable 7·4% of staff had bothered to complete the survey. Were the others content or too disillusioned and believing their opinion would be ignored?


StrategyThe six point plan that will transform Bexley from HR failure to the pinnacle of excellence is shown in the panel alongside. It is going to take four years. Many would consider four months to be excessive.

Labour Leader Stefano Borella thought it might help if Managers could say Hello to staff when they passed by. Councillor Leaf went further and suggested the occasional shared cup of tea might not go amiss. (I second that; used to do it every day in my own management role.)

Labour Councillor Nicola Taylor (I hope that ID is correct, the audio is indistinct and the video image is worse because the camera failed to zoom in) linked the staff mental health issues with the Tory Government’s failure to address the cost of living crisis. David Leaf reprimanded her for addressing him as Chair. He is Chairman and a chair is an item of furniture. (Trivial maybe but I have always thought that Bexley Council insisting on the correct use of language is what marks them out from the Loony Left.)

The Chairman moved on to the Customer Experience Strategy. Another four year plan. The Council aims to do better by moving more things on line in order to free up resources for ֹ‘the digitally excludedֹ’. It will always be possible “to get through to a human being”.

Cabinet Member Philip Read was critical of the fact that nowhere in the Strategy was there any reference to the speed of response to residents. “There was an absence of any kind of commitment”. The excuse was that different departments will inevitably have different response times; uncollected bins and planning applications being examples.

Councillor Taylor made a plea for better facilities for the deaf including webcasts to be signed. If the fuzzy video is not deceiving me she stood and used British Sign Language to make her point. (In so doing the former ID was confirmed) The Chairman was not unsympathetic.

It was then confirmed that the Council has submitted its response to the adverse OFSTED SEND report (“widespread systemic failings”) and the Department of Education will be carefully watching Bexley for the next 18 months.

The response is to be published within the next few days.

Note: I should probably declare my antipathy to HR Managers. In 1981, faced with a particular statistical problem I asked for one of the new fangled desktop computers to be installed in my office. I was told that British Telecom International had declared a ‘no computer’ policyְ as the boss of that division (George Brittain) said they had no place in an office environment. I bought one with my own money and then almost doubled the expenditure when it became obvious that I needed an A3 width dot matrix printer.

It took six months to learn how to program something specific to BT’s requirements but the time taken to process a particular job fell from three weeks to about six hours. However before successfully getting
the thing up and running news that I had defied the no computer edict reached the boss of Personnel. The Director himself made a special unannounced visit to my office to inform me I was to be charged with stealing British Telecomְ’s electricity. As we all know from the Horizon scandal, the Post Office (and BT until privatisation in 1984) is able to bring its own prosecutions.

I remember my response absolutely word perfectly. It was “F*ck off out of my office Brian” and I never heard another word about it. Within a year all of BTI’s telephone exchanges and offices were running my programs. That original computer is still rotting away in my garden shed.

Don’t expect BIB to be forgiving towards any of Bexley’s inadequate HR Managers. Four years to fix their problems! If the creator of that problem was so very bad he should have been sacked, not allowed to go with a fat pay-off.

 

16 April - Out Foxed

When Bonkers was in its infancy, Council meeting reports would often include questions from Bexley’s awkward squad, the redoubtable Messrs. Barnbrook, Bryant, Dowling and Watson. John Watson would organise a meeting after every Full Council meeting where he’d suggest and occasionally dictate what the next set of questions would be. By agreement I remained aloof and provided supposedly detached reports of their activities. Bexley Council hated us and had us reported to the police; even got them to retrospectively rewrite their reports on one occasion; but I must not digress too much.

More often, public questions would be thwarted by more mundane methods. There might be no straight answer to a question, a 15 minute filibuster might do the same job and maybe refuse to answer on the grounds that the questioner had once voted for a rival political party.

Totally illegally (the ICO confirmed) anyone unwilling to have his or her address published in the Agenda alongside their name was barred. This effectively excluded people who might be living with their parents or, for example, in a refuge for abused women.

Fortunately most of those things appear to be consigned to the history book except perhaps the simplest method of all. Simply say you don’t like the question and refuse to accept it, preferably at such a late stage that there is no time to submit another.

Head of Committee Services Kevin Fox would often pull that trick supposedly at the behest of the Mayor. He has not forgotten how to do it. Today he wrote to Mr. Shvorob to say his two questions for next week’s Council meeting are rejected as being “frivolous since the Council has provided required available information and explained the position under queries raised under the Freedom of Information procedure”.

I am not sure exactly what that string of barely intelligible words mean as Mr. S is illegally banned from submitting FOIs because he has been declared vexatious.

The rejected questions are not yet known to me. Maybe they were mischievous, dishonest Councils tend to provoke such reactions. One way or another Bexley Council is unlikely to emerge from this nonsense smelling of roses.

 

14 April - No Trading Standards has consequences

Now that Bexley Council no longer has an accessible Trading Services Department and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau is not always an adequate replacement, scammers can roam the borough with impunity. Yesterday the crooks who spent 40 minutes fixing my displaced block drive after quoting for four men taking a whole day were looking for new mugs in Crayford.

If you see a maroon coloured van emblazoned with ‘Lion Steam Cleaning’ steer well clear and if you are given a quotation haggle it down to about 20% of the initial figure and then watch their every move.

Thanks to Conservative Bexley being a Trading Services free zone Lion Steam Cleaning are not the only charlatans on the prowl. When my criminal friends were first featured here, @tonyofsidcup told me he had met more than his fair share of shady operators but conceded that his were not convicted burglars and rapists.

His tale of woe included a Sidcup based plumber who failed to fix a leaking tap but broke it instead and walked out leaving chez-tony to flood. A so called flooring specialist from Abbey Wood was asked to lay wood costing £50 per square metre but sneakily bought an inferior product from B&Q at less than half the price.

Opening up an old fanlight proved to be too much for a Sidcup based window company but @tony’s big squabble has been with Bexleyheath based Kent Rendering and Repointing Ltd which he eventually took to the County Court. He was not the first to do so, there had been four unsatisfied judgments made against the company in the previous seven months.
Court judgments Court judgments
@tony added to Kent Rendering’s travails with another £1,500 judgment. (Extras brought it up to £2,300.)
Judgment Getting judgment and getting the money are of course two very different things. Along the way @tony managed to get two emails from the company owner…
Email Second email
…the second of them conveying a menacing message. The police paid the company owner a visit.

The foregoing is a totally re-written account of @tony’s submission to BiB. To read his original words, names and all, click here. (PDF.)

Bexley Council cuts have consequences. I used their Trading Services when it existed; a man came out and immediately took action against the offending business. They ceased trading soon afterwards. Now there is little standing between residents and the con-artists and when they put up illegal adverts on Council lampposts, Bexley Council doesn’t care.
fixmystreet

Five adverts in the vicinity of the Danson underpass, reported August 2022.

FixMyStreet.

 

13 April - Thames Water is mainly crap (in rivers). Octopus Energy is mainly clapped

Thames WaterI have been mulling over the compilation of a list of reasons why it is impossible for me to vote Conservative at the forthcoming General Election and among them is allowing more than 50% of any utility company to be foreign owned. Transport, Energy, Water and the major strategic Telecommunications providers would be among them. Foreign ownership is potentially dangerous and allowing it is the action of a traitor.

Ergo, no vote for the Globalist Conservative Party which one might say is also more than 50% foreign owned.

Councillor Francis is in credit with his Water Bill but Thames Water wants to increase his payment by 22·5%. I think I can top that. How about something like 700%?

It is widely accepted that Octopus Energy is the best provider from a customer service point of view and I wouldn’t dispute that. Having come to them via British Gas and Scottish Power I am well aware what poor service is, but Octopus is not perfect as the following images may illustrate.

Thanks to the solar panels and storage battery my electricity consumption is low and with no one around indoors to moan that the house is cold my gas bill is reasonable too.

I have been paying £50 a month in Winter - which doesn’t cover the consumption - and £25 a month in Summer when consumption is close to zero. Overall it works and last May I accepted a refund of £600 which was in part a hang over from paying £120 (pre-battery) in the Winter months.

As you can see, my £50 payment will reduce to £25 in a week’s time when the credit balance will increase to £352. By the end of Summer the credit will probably go over £400 which will easily see me through next Winter.

Octopus Energy think I should be paying £172 a month which is 50% above my highest ever bill which was very much a one-off.

If I click the ‘How is this calculated?’ button it tells me that they have looked at my history and “have built up an accurate usage prediction” which is obviously the purest bulls**t. They have my history back to 19th January 2018. Six times I have asked them exactly how they calculate the £172·03 and now have a small collection of fantasy stories. I have given up asking, there is obviously something seriously wrong with Octopus’s algorithms but presumably it is a big earner from more gullible consumers.

You may also note that they won’t allow me to have my £327 back; not that I have any intention of asking, it is the right sort of balance to keep my account out of trouble for another year.

The energy cost shown in the third image is from the date the cap changed on 1st April and not typical of a whole month bill. That cap reduction managed to increase my electricity bill because the standing charge is such a large proportion of the bill. It went up more than the electricity went down!

Despite the one failing, Octopus is still my best choice of provider.

Octopus Energy Octopus Energy Octopus Energy

Note: Thames Water once issued my 90 year old aunt with a summons for a persistent unfixed water leak in her house. When they eventually discovered that the leak was in their pipe under the road outside they absolutely refused to send her a letter of apology for scaring the life out of her. Awful company, can’t wait for it to go bust!

 

12 April - Someone may be fibbing

GLA election campaignThe contest has started. Today the first London Mayoral election leaflet was rammed into my letter box and the Labour team has been touring the local streets.

Their publicity photograph is interesting to me in several ways. Two of the people pictured are Councillors I voted for in 2022, my own house is visible and the photo site is one I have passed most days for the past 37 years.

As such I have got to know several of the people living there and I am disappointed to learn that they have been fibbing to me. None have had a good word to say about Sadiq Khan from the time he was elected and much worse in recent years.

Neither is there much love for any Conservative politician but it takes a considerable stretch of the imagination to think a traditional Conservative voter will switch to Khan.

I can imagine some being stupid enough to vote for Starmer; but Khan? Never.

I find the whole thing disappointing. How can I possibly support people who won my vote in 2018 and 2022 when they are so keen to condemn London to another four years of incompetence, BS and the acceptance of crime?

When Rishi eventually throws in the towel it looks like a Spoiled Ballot Paper is called for but not on May 2nd when the future of the city is in grave danger.

 

10 April - Twice a year is not enough

There will be no Council meeting to report until the middle of next week and then we must wait until near the end of the month to see another, so BiB must go into treading water mode again.

I was contemplating publishing the consumption figures received very recently from Octopus Energy because their Direct Debit demands are absolutely stupid but the good news is that I ignore them and they have never complained. I am still inclined to think that Octopus is much better than the alternatives but none of them is perfect.

Bellegrove RoadBellegrove RoadFortunately my Bellegrove Road correspondent came up with pictures of a gully cover having seen mine from Abbey Wood. (Example 1 - Example 2 - Example 3)

Strictly speaking they are not pictures of a gully cover because this one is completely covered in mud and you have to be a local with a good memory to know there is a one there.

My recent FOI response (because it was concerned with flooding as well as Zebra crossings) includes the words…


The council’s gullies are cleansed at least twice per year, and which [sic] extracts debris from the gully pots and then floods them with water to ensure the water subsides; meaning the pipe to the sewer/outfall is operational.


Despite the poor proof reading it is clear enough that gullies are scheduled to be cleaned at least twice a year. Perhaps Bellegrove man should submit an FOI asking when this drain was last flushed out. Only joking. I would guess that someone will tell Mr. Bashford that this gully should be jumped up the priority list.

Two days ago Country Style were out clearing the drainage ditch which runs from Lesnes Abbey Park to Fendyke Road and beyond. Good to see, even if it was only one man in the water and three observing from the road.

 

8 April (Part 2) - Road relief

Brampton RoadA tip off said Brampton Road was open early this afternoon and I can confirm that at 8 p.m. this evening it was. My visitor is very relieved and grateful for Mr. C’s Contact form report.

If the job only needed a couple of hours extra work it is shame on Thames Water for not completing the job on Saturday morning and saving two days of chaos.

 

8 April (Part 1) - Yarnton Way crossing

My Freedom of Information request about Yarnton Way missing out on a pedestrian crossing was answered last week by Head of Highways Andrew Bashford and his letter and enclosure was entirely satisfactory. Yarnton Way slipped off the crossings schedule because solving the drainage problems would have been a little too expensive for a cash strapped Council. Someone more argumentative than me might point out that Yarnton Way has plenty of potential crossing sites and Thamesmead whilst wet is not quite Venice, but that would achieve nothing except a waste time and money.

Time and money was however wasted by the FOI because I already had a good idea of why the crossing had been cancelled and was not desperate for more information. Later I heard Mr. Bashford explaining the situation in some detail to the Transport sub-Committee. The real reason for submission was to demonstrate the futility of Bexley Council refusing to accept any FOIs from @tonyofsidcup. As various legal minds have explained over the years; to ban an individual, however obnoxious he might be - or not in this case - it is not lawful to decide that no questions are permitted from that particular source. Full stop. End of the matter.

Once again it is demonstrated that Bexley Council has no respect for the law of the land. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that Bexley Council under its present Leadership has no respect for the law.

I can think of no reason for Cabinet Member Richard Diment to no longer be answering perfectly reasonable emails from @tonyofsidcup - as he did once upon a time - except that he might be under instructions from his boss who is of course the power behind the ban issued by the Monitoring Officer.

What a mess. The Council’s legal officer acts illegally because to do otherwise might imperil her employment.

Without @tony, in an age when local newspapers barely exist, almost no one would be asking questions and few would know anything about the strange workings of Bexley Council.

 

7 April (Part 2) - Bexley is truly Bonkers

Hole There will be an accident Taking a chanceIf you live in the north of the borough you might already believe that Bexley Council hates you and if so you will by tomorrow be even more sure of it.

The only road routes from Bexleyheath to Thamesmead and Abbey Wood are Long Lane and Brampton Road which both converge on to Knee Hill.

There are temporary lights in Long Lane and Brampton Road will be closed all week. Thames Water in their usual way dug a hole on Friday and ran away without a care in the world.

To compound the idiocy there is a rail strike and the whole of the South East will be making a bee line for Abbey Wood station and the Elizabeth line.

I was expecting a visitor in the morning so I drove in a loop to Crook Log and turned into Brampton Road to see how the land was lying. There is no advance notice of the closure and not a diversion sign anywhere. I wasn’t absolutely sure of the best alternative route so I followed the TfL bus diversion signs which entailed two miles of diversion to advance about 80 yards. Bexley Council which authorises all these road closures really is run by idiots.

I watched the convergent scene for two or three minutes and it looked like an accident waiting to happen. Northbound It is blocked by the abandoned hole and there is nothing very obvious to say you cannot use the open southbound carriageway. Three cars did exactly that within a couple of minutes.

Not really news to northerners, sorry about that, but residents driving in from the privileged south are not going to be happy when they hit the road block in the morning.
Brampton Road closed

Road closed with no prior warning. No diversion signs. No one working.

My visitor has cancelled.

 

7 April (Part 1) - A short history of SEN failure

It’ְְְs not been a good week or two for Bexley Council. First they advertised their managerial incompetence, their invisibility and bullying which results in mental health being the biggest cause of sick absence among staff. (In my time in management and a predominately female workforce by far the most common reason for pulling a sickie was child care.)

Then they held the inquest into their SEND failures at which the words Review and Improve popped up over and over again as if the OFSTED criticism was the first that Bexley Council knew that their SEN services have been poorly managed. That would be far from the truth as a re-examination of the events of 2019 would show.

In both February and April that year they were saying that £800,000 a year had been wiped off of SEND transport costs. Necessary perhaps but unlikely to make things better.

At the latter meeting assurances were given that Bexley was performing much better than in neighbouring boroughs, a claim that fell apart a couple of months later.

The Cabinet Member for Education said that no one had complained to the LGO (because the Director sitting next to him whispered a lie) but Councillor Perfect (Labour, Northumberland Heath) was able to show that 55% of the LGO’s London complaints were about Bexley and all the SEN related ones were upheld.

At the July Full Council meeting Teresa O’Neill the Council Leader was unhappy with the flow of embarrassing SEN revelations coming from Labour, and asked Mayor Lucia-Hennis to rule them out of order but the Mayor was not in favour of suppressing debate just because the facts were unpalatable. The Leader argued with her but to no avail.

But that soon changed.

Councillor Dave Putson (Labour, Belvedere until he was expelled in November 2021 for ridiculous reasons which are still being disputed) read out a number of damning LGO reports including one where Bexley had insisted on a single parent being at two schools at the same time.

Eventually the Mayor at the request of Councillor Sybil Camsey rudely shut him up for providing details of each of the LGO reports instead of simply saying there were six. (This was not reported in great detail on 27th July 2019 but I have today listened again to the recording of the ill tempered meeting and Mayor.)

Councillor Daniel Francis (Labour, Belvedere) asked why the Conservatives were so keen to suppress discussion of their many failures and called for a special meeting to discuss the issues. The Tories contemptuously jeered and accused him of “talking twaddle”. Meanwhile six LGO reports said otherwise.

When Daniel Francis objected to the language being used the Mayor said her patience with him was fast running out.

The Labour Group issued a Press Release on the subject.

Last year the LGO came back to give Bexley another good SEND kicking (†) in a further indication of the inadequacy of the management in that department and now OFSTED has got in on the act. But don’t worry, the Head of Human Resources thinks that awarding stars is the fix for under-performing staff.

Well it worked for me going to Sunday School regularly so maybe she knows more about managing a large workforce than I do.

† See also 9th October 2023.

 



6 April - B is not for Blocks, it’s for burglary. R is not for Resin, it’s for rape

Missed Ruined surfaceThis is not just another example of the Steam Cleaning scammers standard of workmanship it gets far more sinister than that.

However before moving on, Photo 1 shows an area where a lone brick had been lying in a corner. They couldn’t be bothered to move it when brushing in the new filler and Photo 2 shows where they left their sticky resin on the surface and it won’t brush off, not to mention the level issue which they promised to fix but didn’t.

However they were the friendliest of guys which is perhaps why I stupidly didn’t question their claim to have bought 42 packs of resin when I only actually saw one empty pack and their van didn’t have enough spare space for more than half a dozen.

Being so friendly I learned that one was the father and the others his sons and their names plus their home town before moving to Bexleyheath. When a personal bank card was presented in a likely tax dodging move I learned the surname too; so a bit of detective work was called for. This is where it gets interesting.Invoice

One is a convicted burglar who absconded from HMP Sudbury three years ago but was found after a month on the run. He also has convictions for aggravated vehicle taking and criminal damage. Not just any old burglar, 21 offences.

I found a photo of them together entering a Court for conspiracy to shoot another family member (an assumption based on surname). The allegations included all of them being armed with pick handles and acid being thrown. Cocaine was involved too. As yet I have been unable to discover if they were found guilty but one of the brothers was discharged because his alibi was sound.

In another episode one of the brothers tied a rope around a woman’s neck and raped her while her child was in the next room. He and an accomplice were given fourteen years. The Judge said there had been “no limits to the depravity” and “it was really most shocking” and found “no mitigation”. The following Appeal was refused. Release came in June 2019 subject to ten years of supervision by the Probation Service.

The violated woman was taken in by, believe it or not, an intended scam which began with a knock on her front door. When the convicts returned to their home town, local residents were incensed especially when faced by rapists armed with a chain saw and iron bar. The Police said the criminals had served their time and were free to live where they liked but the locals succeeded in running them out of town. To Bexleyheath perhaps?

All the foregoing is from press reports, the names match and the home town matches. The men were of distinctive appearance and the photographs match too.

Someone with the same surname, from the same town but not the right age to be one of my scammers was put in the Correction Centre in New York last year for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a young woman in a nightclub restroom.

These people are touring the local streets in a maroon coloured van grossly over-estimating the time and materials needed to do a job and maybe in league with a neighbour for a recommendation and price fix if you have one that is amoral.

 

5 April (Part 2) - Council breaks your bin. Wait five months for another

Bexley MagazineYou first saw this notice in early December last year unless of course you noticed it around the end of October when it appeared in the Bexley Magazine.

Get using your food waste bin because, as Cabinet Member Richard Diment keeps telling us, it makes money for the Council; so on 11th November someone who lives not far from me asked for a new bin because his had gone under the wheel of a refuse truck and he expected to be able to dispose of his turkey bones responsibly as Bexley Council requested.

And he waited.

And his Councillor Sally Hinkley got involved and he was told when the replacement bin might arrive.

And he waited.

Sally raised the subject at a Scrutiny meeting. And the wait went on.

And on.

Until yesterday when a brand new fox proof food waste bin showed up. But not in time for “the festive season” as promised. Not even in time for Easter and the stale Hot Cross Buns. (Thank you Sainsbury’s.)

Well done Bexley Council, another demonstration of how good your managers are.

It is probably not a coincidence that my garden waste bin disappeared yesterday. By a stroke of rare good fortune I retrieved a whole load of fly tipped timber soon afterwards so I will be able to make an extra compost bin.

My resident fox won’t be happy because she used to hide between the bin and the house wall when it was raining.

 



5 April (Part 1) - Lion Steam Cleaning Services

It would appear that the rubbish drive repair merchants who introduced themselves to me as Clean King Steam Cleaning have an alternative name.

Below is a further example of their poor workmanship and inattention to detail. One place where a block gap is successfully infilled and another photographed only a few feet away where it was not. There is far more of the latter than the former.

It was a long winded job but not difficult but a report about possible VAT and tax evasion has been submitted to HMRC. The company phone numbers, email address and sort code and account number for the offered personal bank account. It was possible to make the report anonymously but I chose not to do so. I let HMRC know that I had a small amount of incriminating documentation.

Sand No Sand HMRC

I am still asking myself how I allowed them to get away with that or how a neighbour of 37 years standing thinks it is reasonable to make a secret deal with them to get a discount at my expense. Never have I been more grateful for a banking failure.

 

4 April (Part 2) - In praise of Shenstone School

On a day when Bexley Council’s failure to adequately provide for vulnerable children is the major topic on BiB, a look at the other side of the coin.

You may remember a handful of blogs in 2021 and 2022 which reported on the plight of an autistic boy in Thamesmead who was being abused by Jubilee School. He was kept isolated and uneducated and when his parents complained they were banned from contacting the Head mistress and being on school premises. She reported the parents to Social Services with an entirely false story which was investigated and rejected by Bexley Council and the concocted story contradicted by the family GP and the boyְְ’s hospital consultant.

When that line of attack failed the Head reported the father to the police for harassment when he had the temerity to seek a Subject Access Request from the school.

Then he was accused of writing rude letters and the contact ban continued. I wrote a very polite letter to the Headmistress which the mother submitted and she too was labelled rude and banned from writing again. There is a little Index which will take you to seven relevant blogs.

Then I lost contact with the family for more than a year which was perhaps remiss of me. A couple of weeks ago I gave them a call. “How are you getting on with that monstrous Headteacher at Jubilee School?” was the deliberately provocative opener.

“We beat her” came the response. We managed to get [name redacted] into Shenstone School about six months ago and he is utterly transformed; and both parents were so obviously overjoyed by the improvements they had seen. He likes going to school, comes back bubbling with enthusiasm and is no longer completely withdrawn from social life and is speaking when he rarely did before.

Obviously Jubilee School and Trinitas Academy Trust are places to avoid if you value your child’s education and the Council run Shenstone School is far superior if you have a child who deserves a bit more loving care than the “monsters” who run Trinitas are prepared to offer.

 

4 April (Part 1) - The SEND inquest

The Council Leader tried to spin the recent calamitous OFSTED Report into some sort of Good News story - because it wasn’t all bad - but “His Majesty’s Chief Inspector requires the local area partnership to prepare and submit a priority action plan (area SEND) to address the identified areas for priority action” so she couldn’t ignore it totally.

OFSTED reportAs is always the case when Bexley Council gets into trouble it set up a sub-Committee; a larger one than usual. It comprised Councillors Zainab Asunramu, Bola Carew, John Davey, Geraldene Lucia-Hennis, Lisa Moore, Chris Taylor, Nicola Taylor and Janice Ward-Wilson. The following is a very small extract from their report which neatly summarises the problem Bexley is facing.
Bexley Council summary
It is only just over a month since the OFSTED report was published (first report on BiB 26th February) but last Tuesday the sub-Committee and their partners were ready to talk about their recommendations in public and they were subjected to a two hour examination by Councillors.

The ad-hoc Committee first had to go through the pretence of selecting a Chairman and Chris Taylor (Conservative, Crook Log) was chosen. No other name was put forward and quite obviously it was all planned in advance. How could anyone do a half decent job of being Chairman if they hadn’t been given notice and made suitable preparations? Councillor Taylor was obviously well equipped to handle the situation and opened by welcoming the Council’s SEND partners to the meeting and reminded everyone that it was not just the Council that was criticised by OFSTED but the whole of the SEND operation.

Seven or eight people from those outside organisations told of what they do without saying anything that might be of great interest to anyone other than themselves. Children are a priority especially around transitioning (†), building relationships, on the journey, plans going forward, scoping with; all the buzz words one expects from bureaucrats. A sole GP was a little critical. The time taken to process autism and ADHD cases is far too long. The School Nursing and Assessment Services are failing.

There are only six nurses to cover 86 schools. “The budget doesn’t provide for the sort of service offered ten years ago.” The same applies in other boroughs.

Councillor Janice Ward-Wilson (Conservative, Crook Log) read out was was effectively an apology for the failures “but Bexley’s learning and changing ethos will ensure the required improvements will be enthusiastically pursued. Unfavourable inspections are deeply disappointing but they are an opportunity to improve. However we cannot overstate that detrimental outcomes for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities are deeply regrettable and impact young lives for a long time”.

Councillor Peter Reader (Conservative, West Heath) asked how much the improvement plan would cost to implement but a three and a half minute response by the Acting Chief Executive and former Finance Director failed to provide an answer. He also asked if there were any examples of children not properly prepared for adulthood and where partners should have been preparing them for Year 9 onwards. There were some, young adults who were “not known by Adults’ Services until they went into crisis”. Often they are picked up by Mental Health Services and others might be autistic who had few needs while at school but did so after leaving.

Cabinet Member for Adult’s Services, Melvin Seymour, said he was “enthused” by the plan accepting that “we don’t always get it right”.

Caroline Newton, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services spoke for much longer than Melvin but I have failed to find anything that requires a mention here.

The formal submission to OFSTED will not be publicly available until it is signed off by them but a summary of planned improvements follows…


• Finalise and publish the Local Area SEND and Preparing for Adulthood Strategy.
• Finalise and publish the Local Area Strategic Action Plan.
• Review the information and advice available to young people as they prepare for Adulthood.
• Identify areas of good practice we can learn from.
• Review and Improve the Preparing for Adulthood process.
• Review the format of the Post 14 Education, Health and Care Plan.
• Implement an enhanced quality assurance program to ensure Post 14 EHCP’s are of good quality and include a clear plan of PfA support.
• Improve the identification of young people with less complex SEN who may need advice and/or support to prepare them for adulthood and the offer we have for them.
• Review and enhance our monitoring of the completion of timely annual reviews.
• Ensure health and social care colleagues have notice of the annual review dates of the children and young people they are working with and are able to provide timely advice/reports to inform the review.
• Provide refresher training to SEN Case Officer and all professionals who provide advice for EHCP’s.
• Review Health and Social Care advice templates.
• Review capacity of teams to ensure the annual review process and any amended EHCP’s required are completed within timescales.
• Review and improve data and systems to ensure that the quality and timeliness of EHCPs and Annual reviews is monitored and available for scrutiny by SEND Board.
• Implement an enhanced and comprehensive quality assurance process to ensure the quality of EHCP’s is consistently good or better.
• Identify the current gaps and pressures on Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy provision.
• Identify and implement a commissioning model that ensures effective joint commissioning of Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy provision.
• Develop an electronic tracker that allows us to quickly identify any gaps in the provision of EHCP Occupational Therapy and Speech and Language Therapy provision to take affirmative action.
• Further develop the joint workforce strategy to address the national shortage of Occupational Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists.
• Co-produce a Local Area SEND Co-production Strategy.
• Review the capacity of our engagement function.
• Set up a Children and Young Persons with SEN and Disabilities Group.
• Review and re-launch the “Voice of the Child SEN Toolkit”.
• Review the SEND Improvement Board Data Set.
• Better capture data to inform impact and key health data.
• Review the SEND IT System and processes.


† I think this refers to transitioning to adulthood and not what some might think.

 

3 April (Part 2) - Spinning in his grave

Norman Dodds HouseThe Labour Constituency Office for Erith and Thamesmead is in Northumberland Heath in a house given to the party by Norman Dodds who was a local MP for 20 years until he died at the young age of 61. But then the premises were taken over by a new breed of MP with no knowledge of the building’s history and who thought her name should take precedence over his - and spent a lot of money on the transformation. (It was to be fair in need of some some renovation.)

Now it is up for sale.

My most active - now former - Councillor Dave Putson is not happy about it and has written an interesting essay on the subject. (Active in terms of resident engagement.)

He asserts that it is Keir Starmer’s doing…

Keir Starmer's decisionDave Putson said with Starmer’s Labour it is only about the money and equates him with Margaret Thatcher. Having ejected so many activists he has to scrabble around looking for corporate donors and hoping that 13 million voters will not notice that the Labour Party is no longer about Fairness, Equality, Human Rights and Internationalism.
Members expelled
Well worth a read. My guess is that Starmer will be elected and not last five minutes. The population is angry now and won’t be at all happy when Starmer is found to be worse than Sunak. Then the left wing will come and get him. And then what will we do?

Note1: I must be in Dave’s bad books. he didnְ’t tip me off about his web page.
Note2: Within an hour or two of publishing this Dave Putson had emailed to say how busy he had been - with examples - and said I am not in his bad books after all.

 

3 April (Part 1) - Bye bye bin

Garden shredderI cancelled my garden waste subscription after it was made clear at a Council meeting that the price would be jacked up as much as possible while residents continue to show an inclination to keep coughing up.

It was always a rip off; when the charge was introduced it was said that selling garden waste - instead of garden and food waste mixed together as it was before - would result in a £440,000 saving even if the collection service was provided free.

My contract ended on 25th March and a letter has arrived to say the bin will be collected on some unspecified date but as it is in the front garden that is not a problem.

However nothing that Bexley Council does is entirely sensible and they go on to say that if I decide to renew in the future the new renewal day will be the same as the old one. It gets close to implying that I would have to pay from March 2024 but I doubt even Bexley Council can be that dishonest, however they are clear about one thing. Renewals incur a £20 bin delivery fee.

What better way can they ensure that no leaving subscriber ever returns? There was an admission last week that Bexley Council management is poor to say the least and I have felt the same when listening to the recycling boss at Council meetings. Far from impressive but always given the benefit of the doubt here because of language difficulties. Maybe that wasn’t the right decision.

I don’t think I have the storage space but you can buy a highly regarded waste shredder for the price of 30 months of bin tax and the warranty is longer.

 

2 April (Part 2) - Can it get any worse?

Angela Rayner Rishi Sunak Nadim ZahawiAngela Rayner is apparently the best MP that Keir Starmer can find to be his Deputy, a lady who left school aged 15 and whose only qualification is an NVQ Level 2 in Social Care. Maybe a sop to his left wing as John Prescott was to Tony Blair.

Former Trade Union official Angela Rayner has been in the news quite a lot recently for having the good sense to take up Mrs. Thatcher’s offer of a cheap Council house. Now it is alleged that it wasn’t her main home when she made a £48,000 profit when selling up and dodged the Capital Gains Tax that might be due.

Maybe she didn’t give it a thought, probably most people who left school with no qualifications and aspirations to lead the Labour Party wouldn’t, but as I write the radio is telling me that that a “full police investigation” is being demanded. Any Conservative clamoring for such an enquiry is a hypocrite.

Their record on tax dodging is nothing to crow about.

When that destroyer of the Conservative Party if not Britain itself, Rishi Sunak, was appointed Chancellor by Clown Johnson three years ago he wasn’t even a proper British citizen. He had a USA Green Card and looked for all the world as if he intended to live there with a house ready for him in California. He paid taxes to the USA and his billionaire wife paid no tax here. However that didn’t stop him from raiding British pockets, freezing our tax allowances and generally laying the foundations for financial Armageddon.

In July 2022 Sunak was succeeded by Nadim Zahawi, a man being pursued at the time by HMRC for a seven figure sum of unpaid tax. He eventually owned up and had to pay a £1 million penalty when less well connected people may have gone to jail.

By comparison, the sale of a Council House looks like pretty small beer to me. Have the Conservatives lost all sense of proportion as well as their reason to exist?

I am unsure of my position on Labour Chancellors. Like Sunak, Rachel Reeves is Oxford university educated and in my experience some union officials talk more sense than toffs with degrees; but unlike any recently appointed Tory Chancellor, Rachel has some qualifications in the relevant field. However being an economist at the Bank of England does not inspire confidence especially after seeing Denis Healey (he was Oxford educated too) run cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund and Gordon Brown wrecking pension schemes.

But it is hard to think of anyone worse than Jeremy Hunt.

Note: When first writing the above I was under the mistaken impression that Angela Rayner was Shadow Chancellor until @tonyofsidcup put me right. Probably due to the change of direction it has lost most of its impact. But it remains the case that Hunt is such an idiot that he thinks destroying his voter base is a good idea.

 



2 April (Part 1) - Bexley bodge boys

King Clean Steam CleaningToday if there is time I will be filling in the HMRC forms to report Bexleyheath based King Clean Steam Cleaning for possible VAT and tax crimes.

Meanwhile you may wish to see a further example of their professionalism.

The manhole cover is on my neighbour’s property but only eight feet from my door. It was removed and the surrounding bricks dislodged two years ago when the then occupant insisted on flushing sanitary towels down the loo. It was kept open because despite the problems being caused (there were four young females in the house) the towels kept on coming.

I intended to repair it when there was next some left over sand and cement from one of my own jobs - but there never was - so it was included in the work King Clean was going to do for me.

As you can see, they ran off leaving it like this, although to be fair it is quite a lot better than it was.

The concrete buttress to stop blocks moving under the constant turning of car wheels is harder than it was but not yet properly set. I can easily push a nail into it.

 

1 April - Looking out for their own

It wasn’t just Children’s and Corporate Services which came under Scrutiny last week, it was Councillors themselves, or at least that is the theory. There was a Members’ Code of Conduct Committee meeting too.

This is a gathering of eight Conservative Councillors and three Labour who get together to decide whether or not a complaint about one of their colleagues is justified.

This isn’t quite the stitch up that it used to be; there was a time when the Council Leader, presumably in a two fingered gesture to residents, appointed a Code of Conduct Committee Chairman who was not only under investigation by the police at the time but a file was with the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Committee currently includes a few Councillors who I might consider honest and none who I would put in the definitely dishonest category - there are very few of those left in Bexley - but there is definitely a tendency to exonerate every one of their colleagues.

To be fair that is understandable because there is a history of Labour activists submitting false and malevolent accusations because that is what some Labour activists do to brighten up their miserable lives.

Last week the Committee looked at five complaints. The first was quite serious. Several Councillors were accused of not meeting the eligibility criteria for election. I have seen this before where a Councillor had undoubtedly used an accommodation address and got away with it.

I do not know the facts of this case but unsurprisingly all the accused were exonerated. I can only guess that one would be Ahmet Dourmoush who lives a few hundred yards beyond his ward boundary but is eligible because he owns a thriving business in the north of the borough. Another might be Teresa O’Neill who sold her house in Church Road and now lives in…  Well I know what the tittle-tattle says but until some documentary evidence turns up it will have to remain under wraps. But nothing would surprise me when it comes to the Baroness.

Then there is the case reported here several months ago of the Conservative Mayoral candidate being entertained on Council premises. Political events not being permitted within the Civic Offices.

This one initially looked bad because the Monitoring Officer appeared to be more interested in preserving her job than being transparent. However I came around to thinking it was a storm in a tea cup and not a clear breach of the rules. There was never any doubt that the Conduct Committee would not come to the same conclusion.

The third complaint was that Councillors were too friendly with a certain business owner and therefore would not entertain a complaint about him. It sounds like our old friend Kulvinder but I have not a shred of evidence to support that view. The offence was judged too minor to warrant an investigation. A nice get out clause if ever there was one.

Another complaint was about continuing to use an official photograph on a political leaflet after an instruction had gone out not to use it. The Committee decided it would involve too much work and expense to stop distribution more effectively and there was nothing to be gained from attempting to do so.

The final complaint was that a Councillor had not been very helpful with the arrangements for installing Christmas lights. It was decided that the complaint fell outside the Committee’s remit and that is probably correct.

 

News and Comment April 2024

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